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Check it out, man. It’s a picture of a laptop…with a picture of a laptop on it.  That’s groooovy, man.

2012 seems to be the year of change for us.  With our tax refund, we had our house levelled (as in set level on the foundation,  not torn down), got guttering, and I got a laptop because my computer went on the fritz. (These were all things we’ve been needing/wanting to do for years.)  It was happy timing for my old computer to die because we got our refund the next week!  So now I can blog on the road…if I ever travel.  And I do have plans for a girl trip with my sisters this summer, so maybe my computer will get to take a ride.  I already traveled with it to Abilene over last Sunday to share pictures on it with Den’s family.  That was so cool.  Especially the part where I carried it in a paper bag with a handle.  Who needs a laptop bag?  Not this redneck chick!

Painting trim before the guttering.

We also painted our trim for the first time since we’ve lived here (nine years!) but now the house itself is looking ready for painting again too so that will be on our “to do list” this summer.  A friend of ours, the same one that helped us with our broken pipe in the basement (Joe rocks our socks!) is going to help us re-plane our yard with a back hoe because right now, all the water collects in a pool in the middle, which doesn’t  help with our basement leakage problem.  They’re going to make it so the water drains off instead of pooling and running toward our house.  So happy about that!  Right now I only have before pictures but will share both before and after when we are done with both projects.

Also in the works is Dennis losing his current job and gaining a new one.  This is his last week with Convergys since United Healthcare is pulling out to open their own customer service department, and it is bittersweet because he loved his job there and loved his team (so did I! They always gave me honest feedback on my baked goods.), but he’s also looking forward to something new.  He went to the job information session for the 911 emergency call-taker job I mentioned, then they had him come to a 4-hour observation where he could see the call-takers and dispatchers in action.  He made a good impression because he asked lots of good questions, and they scheduled an interview for tomorrow morning.  He’s getting closer and closer!  Just a lot of hoops to jump through before he gets the job.  If he passes the interview, there’s still a three hour psychological evaluation.  This job is stressful and can cause post-traumatic stress disorder, so they want to make sure you can handle it.  But Den’s got this.  The man was made for this job.

We had a grand old time with Dennis’ family on Easter, basically just ate and chatted but of course did our Easter basket hunt as well.  Here are some photos, and a video of Lance and Carson (our nephews) pulling up after taking a ride around the property in Lance’s work car so they could cover more ground faster in search of their baskets.  Gave us all a good laugh! :)

As you can see, they have a large property, so perhaps you can sympathize with our nephews for taking drastic action to cover more ground:

Cracks me up!

Joan, my sister-in-law, found her basket first!

The yard goes on and on!

The Easter bunny had to hop really high to leave Richard’s basket in a tree!

Joan’s husband, my brother-in-law.  AKA Richard.

Here’s a short video of my mother-in-law, Phyllis, finding her basket since I didn’t get a picture of it:

The nephews, Lance (sitting) and Carson, going through their baskets.

My luck was not as good.  Dennis had to give me “hot and cold” signals to point the way.

I spy with my little eye, something pastel!

Score!

Check out what I found in my basket! Some bunny loves me and knows me too well!

Dog lover’s pasta in the shape of paws and bones! Could I love this any more? I don’t think so!  I’m so going to make this into pasta salad for Jessie’s 8th birthday party in June.

Before Lance took off, we admired his new hard-core Harley.

I’m not sure how widespread this tradition is, but apparently the bikers ’round these parts have a custom that someone has to buy you a bell for your motorcycle to “ward off evil road spirits” (it can’t be bought by the biker or it won’t work).  Joan picked the praying hands for him because she said that’s what she’s going to be doing a lot of!

And for the grand finale, I give you Lance’s studly exit by motorcycle:

For those of you who are still reeling over how messy my desk is in the first photo (I’m not going to lie, it’s this messy 90% of the time), just remember…

Thanksgiving 2011 and No Recipes For You!


As an homage to the soup Nazi, there will be “no recipes for you!” this week.  That’s right, I’m going to do an entire week of non-recipe posts.  I love posting recipes and usually give them first priority, but I have several non-recipe posts to share and I thought I’d get through them before I get to all the December goodies I want to share with you.  (Oh goodness, now I’m wondering if I can really handle this.  I might have to cop out but I’m going to try!)

Let’s start with the Miller family Thanksgiving!

As we have every year since we started dating, Dennis and I headed north to spend the holiday with his family in Abilene, Kansas (Eisenhower’s birth place, the end of the Oregon trail, and the original “sin city” back in cowboy days*). Usually we stay over the night before so I’m there to help Phyllis, my mother-in-law, with all the cooking, but I couldn’t this year due to my work schedule. She still pulled off an amazing dinner, with some side-dishes and desserts help from everyone who came!

*You know, a long time ago, when the original cowboys freely roamed the Earth.

When I first started coming to Thanksgiving in Abilene, all of the extended family came to the Miller house for lunch, but the count has now dwindled as each family has decided to have their own separate celebration.  What used to be utter insanity in the Miller house is now manageable thanks to smaller numbers.  See our happy hostess below?  That’s my MIL, Phyllis.

Dennis got his sense of humor from her. Here’s what I found when I went to reach for a plate. Bob is her brother, our Uncle.

Only a candy mouse for you!

The Thanksgiving ritual at the Miller home is to wait until everyone arrives, doing the final food preparations (cutting the pies, putting servings spoons in all the dishes, etc.) & chatting with one another while trying to pretend we’re not starving and ready to eat the person’s head off that we’re talking to.  When everyone is present, including those that told us not to wait, Uncle Robert, of the mouse plate fame, leads us in a prayer of thanksgiving. This is Robert and his wife, Becky (they are parents to the four beautiful young women throughout my photos, three of them in the background of this one):

We then let the elderly and the youngest go through the kitchen first to fill their plates.  The rest of us continue to play nice and pretend we’re not eying the forearms of our family members and envisioning them as turkey legs.

And then the glorious moment arrives when we all sit down and eat!

That's Dennis' Dad, Al, who had to be censored! LOL!

This year I brought praline sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie…

pumpkin pie truffles…

corn pudding…

and broccoli-cauliflower bake, which I didn’t photograph separately, but there’s a bit of it on the back center-left of my loaded plate.

I forgot to take a picture of my dessert plate, but I was overjoyed that cousin Jessica (the one helping her two little boys with their plates above) brought pecan pie.  It’s my favorite but I never make it for that reason, so I always hope to find it at Thanksgiving, the one time a year I allow myself to eat this evil, but delicious, pie.  I also didn’t photograph the Thanksgiving staples (turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, creamed corn) except the ones that made it to  my plate, but I did get the other side dishes:

Jessica brought this rad turkey vegetable tray!

After we eat, the men continue watching their football game…

the children divide and conquer playing fields of their own creating…

and the adults continue to chat.  Katerina amused us for a while with her Smartphone as we looked up music videos on it.

Loved this photo of Katerina, Tessa, and their nephew Greyson!  He’s such a cutie!

While most of the young adults eventually moved outside to do sports-like activities, I followed them outdoors and exercised my forefinger taking pictures instead.  I’m pretty sure if I had tried to join them in volleying balls and whatever other sports-like nonsense they were up to, I would have broken my eyebrow or something, and I’m kind of fond of my eyebrows.

Here’s a photo I shot outside of Robert and Becky’s girls while they weren’t busy flinging balls or Frisbees or other various  and sundry things in the air.  Left to right: Andrea, Tessa, Katerina, and Jessica.  Andrea and Jessica are responsible for all the kiddos at our gathering.

I loved this photo so much I had a little Thanksgiving-themed fun with it!

I managed to pass the camera off to get a photo with my TALL and handsome nephews, Carson (left) and Lance:

and with their Mom, the best sister-in-law in the world, Joan:

You can tell how much fun she is by her smile!  :)  Oh, and if you’re wondering about my shirt, the front says “How do you mail a turkey?”

“Bird” class mail, of course! Hardy har har! :)  Working for the postal service, I couldn’t resist, even if it is super lame.

I took  this photo right inside the door at an Abilene restaurant called Joe Snuffy’s the day after Thanksgiving.  I thought it quite fitting for this holiday, which is mainly spent with family around a table.

I know that we love to use Thanksgiving as an excuse to pig out, but when it comes down to it, most of us aren’t thinking about food when we think of what we’re truly thankful for.  Usually it’s the people surrounding us during this holiday that we’re most thankful for.

I happened to catch the Thanksgiving episode of “The Middle” where the wife was flipping because everyone was cancelling their travel plans to join hers on Thanksgiving.  “Thanksgiving without family is just overeating!” she exclaimed, and I had to laugh.  It’s so true.  We love Thanksgiving because of the plentiful food, but we love it even more because it gives us a reason to gather together with the ones we love.

Thank God for so many reasons to be thankful. :)

Dennis with 92-year-old Grandma Joy.  She truly is a joy and I’m so glad she has passed her sense of humor down through her daughter to my husband. :)

I hope your Thanksgivings were wonderful, and that whether you celebrate the holiday or not, you have many things to be thankful for!

Cinnamon Roll Pumpkin Sheet Cake

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I found this recipe on Picky Palate and saved it for Thanksgiving, but wanted to give it a trial run beforehand.  I do crazy things like enter pumpkin bread into state fair competitions without ever having made the recipe before or since, but I try not to pull surprises on my family.  I can deal with not winning a ribbon, but I have a reputation to uphold when it comes to loved ones! ;)

I ended up making this for the CFC bake sale at work and my co-workers raved!  After sampling a piece myself, I had decided it wasn’t that exciting and I wasn’t going to bring it to Thanksgiving dinner at my in-law’s, but after all the raving, I gave it a second chance and tried another piece.  Maybe it was the power of suggestion, or maybe my palate just wasn’t ready to handle cake for breakfast when I tried the first piece, but I enjoyed the second piece so well that I’m now reconsidering this for turkey day.

The cake is very, extremely, uber moist, and the swirls of cinnamon filling are very complimentary to the pure pumpkin flavor.  The color is a very nice orange, which I liked, and the simple glaze is a perfect compliment, really finishing off the “cinnamon roll” feel of the cake.  The size of the cake makes it great for a big family gathering because it can easily be cut into 24 slices or more, whereas a normal layer cake would only be 16 pieces at best.  It’s nice to have a “small dessert” option after filling up on turkey and stuffing!  Or, let’s be honest, so you can enjoy more than one dessert. :)

Cinnamon Roll Pumpkin Sheet Cake

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

Cake
1 (18.25 oz) box yellow cake mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk or buttermilk (I used water)
1 (3.4 oz) box vanilla instant pudding mix
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin

Cinnamon filling
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Glaze
3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and spray a jelly roll pan with non stick cooking spray. Set aside.

Combine all cake ingredients in a large bowl and beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan, spreading evenly.  Mix the filling ingredients together, then drizzle mixture evenly over cake.  Take a knife and run it through to swirl the filling into the batter.

Bake cake for 30-35 minutes, until cooked through and remove. Mix glaze ingredients until creamy and smooth. Drizzle over warm cake then let cool for 20 minutes before cutting into squares.  Store covered until ready to serve, refrigerating if not serving within the next day.

Recipe source: Picky Palate

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